from suburban to urban

August 28th, 2015

suburban to urban

York Region’s urban centres are becoming vibrant locations for residents and visitors, growing with new urban cultural attractions – thanks to the support of a rapid transit system.

Exciting growth and new developments featuring modern architecture are popping up in the areas where rapidways are being built, including Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill, and Newmarket. Much of these developments are compact and mixed-use, providing new places to live and work right on peoples’ doorsteps. And the best part is that all these attractions will be conveniently located next to fast, reliable transit – making it easier than ever for people to connect within the Region. When amenities are close by and getting around is easy, a community truly feels connected.

As York Region grows, vivaNext is growing right along with it. Adding a rapid transit system with sleek, modern stations and pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streetscapes, contributes to the feeling of being in the centre of things. It also promotes alternative modes of transportation, helping shift residents away from the car-dependent culture toward a more urban, transit-supportive way of living. It’s wonderful to have transportation choices right on your doorstep. York Region is transforming and the future looks bright! Pictures paint a great picture – check out our video to see the changes unfolding.

 

 

it’s new, and it’s for everyone

August 21st, 2015

it's new, and it's for everyone

One of the perks of building a new transit system is that modern technology can be included from the get-go. New transit systems are installed with the newest technology, in the same way that a new computer comes with new software, or a new house has to meet modern building codes.

Some of the new technology is embedded in the vivaNext rapidways – for example, as a film to strengthen the vivastation glass, or as an additive in the pavement. Modern GPS and transit signal technology help to keep the buses moving on schedule, and new government regulations ensure the system is accessible to all.

Aside from the new regulations in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA], there is also a new way of thinking – that our streets should be accessible to everyone. So we’ve made transit a priority. We’ve added bike lanes where possible. And we’ve added tree-lined sidewalks, and crosswalks with audible signals for pedestrians.

Viva has the technology in place to add audible announcements at vivastations, and Viva riders can see and hear when the bus is approaching their station. Each vivastation has a textured platform surface to help customers identify which part of the platform they’re standing on, and when they’re approaching the edge.

It’s new, and it’s for everyone. Whether you ride a wheelchair, use a cane, push a stroller or ride a bike, the vivaNext rapidways are for you.

 

strong foundations

August 13th, 2015

click to see the video: strong foundations

If you’ve seen the completed rapidway on Highway 7 East, you’ll know that the roadway has gotten a major facelift. VivaNext is building sleek, modern and welcoming transit stations and streetscapes throughout York Region. But that’s not all. During the construction of each new rapidway, older infrastructure is upgraded to lay a strong foundation for the social and economic development that will accompany a rapid transit network.

York Region’s population is expected to increase by 600,000 by the year 2041. As York Region grows into a more urban destination, it’s important to ensure that we have the infrastructure necessary to support a larger, denser population. Taking the time to replace infrastructure during rapidway construction allows us to support this growth, while also reducing future maintenance and repair costs. As the rapidways are being built, water mains, storm sewers, street lights, and other utilities are also being upgraded, expanded or renewed, and bridges and culverts are being assessed and rebuilt as needed.

The future is promising and by investing in new infrastructure, vivaNext is supporting the prosperity of York Region’s communities well into the future. To see how we’re laying a strong foundation for social and economic growth, watch our video.

 

 

shifting how we think about transportation

August 6th, 2015

shifting how we think about transportation

One of the great things about huge events like the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games is seeing how people adjust to the changes the event brings. Leading up to the Toronto 2015 Games, there were some concerns that the Games would cause severe traffic congestion. But thanks to some extra emphasis put on transit and carpooling across the GTA, people have been exploring other choices in how to get around. This, in turn, has likely helped reduce traffic congestion. Whether it’s taking transit, bicycling or carpooling to make use of HOV lanes, every little bit helps.

It’s a shift that takes some getting used to, adjusting to a new routine using a new mode of transit. And it’s this “modal shift” that is so important when developing transit for a growing community.

Most days of the week, many of our roads and intersections are at capacity or beyond. They’re not going to get any less congested as our cities and regions continue to grow, and since there’s limited space in the GTA for roads, there are really only two ways to address congestion.

The first way involves road design, traffic signals and traffic detection systems – known as Intelligent Transportation Systems or ITS, York Region uses this approach to make our existing roads better.

The other approach, which is known to traffic engineers as transportation modal shift but to everyone else as reducing our reliance on cars, is probably the best long-term strategy to reduce traffic congestion. Modal shift means cutting down on the number of trips made by one form of transportation by shifting to other forms of transportation, including transit, cycling or walking.

Modal shift may sound a little technical, or maybe it’s hard to imagine – as if people would get out of their cars all at once and climb onto buses and trains. But really it’s just a matter of small changes in behaviour: taking the bus to the GO station or subway every now and then; carpooling with your co-worker; walking to the convenience store instead of driving; helping the kids bike to school instead of giving them a ride.  All great ideas that the people at Smart Commute and Pembina Institute advocate for.

For successful modal shift, major infrastructure and land use decisions need to be in place, followed-up by investments.  Transit needs to be convenient and reliable; shops and schools need to be within reasonable walking distance; there need to be bike lanes; and jobs need to be located near housing.

Fortunately, all of the long-term decisions and investments that will eventually encourage and enable more people to reduce their reliance on cars are already underway in York Region.  Modal shift away from cars will be able to happen because people will be offered easier, more convenient and reliable ways to get around.

A gradual shift toward other modes of transportation will reduce congestion on our roads. It’s a long-term process, requiring patience, careful planning, and commitment.  It’s also a big part of the vivaNext vision, and with every rapid transit project we build more transportation choices, and the vision becomes an exciting reality.

 

Newmarket Jazz Festival

July 30th, 2015

Newmarket Jazz Festival

It’s already the middle of summer, and despite the heat, we hope you’ve been out in the weather, having fun. This weekend, the Newmarket Jazz Festival is the place to be for great music, fun activities for the kids, and food and vendors of all kinds.

Come out Friday night, 5:30-11pm – for the free t-shirts [first 500 ticket-holders], activities and music on two stages. On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 11pm and Monday from noon to 8pm, there will be more music, a Creative Kids Zone and special performances for the kids.

The vivaNext team will be there handing out scratch ‘n’ win cards, so stop by our booth and chat. And have a happy and safe long weekend!

 

when time is money, BRT is priceless

July 28th, 2015

BRT proven to save time, money, and enhance lifestyles

In our busy modern lives, time is our most precious commodity, and for the competitive-minded, cutting time can be exciting.

When living through the construction of a Bus Rapid Transit system, you might wonder if it’s really going to make a difference.  Is it really worth it?

Bus Rapid Transit has been proven to save time and money and even enhance health, according to a 2013 report by EMBARQ, the transportation branch of the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

The report – Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of BRT Systems – looked at four different Bus Rapid Transit projects and quantified things like time lost during construction, improved travel time, reduced transit operating costs and all of the future environmental and public health impacts that come from Bus Rapid Transit. Then they calculated whether or not it’s worth it.

EMBARQ’s analysis used case studies from the TransMilenio in Bogota, Colombia; Metrobús in Mexico City, Mexico; Rea Vaya in Johannesburg, South Africa; and Metrobüs in Istanbul, Turkey.

saving time

We all know that time is priceless. Every minute spent living our lives instead of waiting in traffic is a minute well-spent. Bus Rapid Transit saves time because buses have dedicated lanes that won’t be clogged with traffic. Passengers pay before they board and have near-level boarding, so they’re able to get on and off buses quickly. Traffic signals that give buses priority saves time, and so does the frequent service, because you spend less time waiting and more time getting where you need to go.

EMBARQ found the typical Metrobüs rider in Istanbul saved 52 minutes a day by using Bus Rapid Transit. In Johannesburg, riders save an average of 13 minutes each way.

Imagine what you could do with 52 more minutes in a day!

saving money

Now take the happiness of saving time, and add the satisfaction of saving money – how exciting is that?

For the cities in the EMBARQ report, Bus Rapid Transit is an investment in the future. One of the biggest benefits is reduced operating costs. Mexico City’s Metrobús Line 3 is estimated to have saved $37 million with lower operating costs that come with Bus Rapid Transit. Istanbul and Turkey also have seen significant savings from lower costs.

Here in York Region, we’re already saving time on Bus Rapid Transit. Riders on our Highway 7 East rapidway are experiencing 35% faster travel times. But the best is yet to come, as we grow around a great rapid transit system. Our region’s population is projected to grow from 1.1 million in 2014 to 1.8 million in 2041, and employment is expected to grow from 565,000 to 900,000. We’re building a system of Bus Rapid Transit lanes to move the future of York Region – and help people get where they need to go, saving time and money along the way.

We’ve caught the excitement, and maybe watching our video will help you catch it too.

 

zig-zags and traffic flips

July 24th, 2015

Zig-zags during construction

Anyone who has driven with any regularity through one of our vivaNext construction zones will be familiar by now with the ongoing changes we periodically make to lane configurations, and the occasionally zig-zag layout of the temporary lanes. Here’s an explanation for those temporary lanes, and why they’re a necessary part of construction.

There’s no doubt that the fastest and easiest way to widen a road and build our BRT network would be to close the roads and divert all the traffic. Construction would be done soon and could even cost less. But Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive are among the busiest roads in York Region (which is why we’re building our first rapidways there). Any reduction to the number of lanes, even for a block, or for a short time, may result in traffic congestion and travel times, divert traffic into local neighbourhoods and hurt local businesses. Closures are only done for specific tasks, and only when there are no other reasonable options.

Widening the road and building the new rapidways can only be done when traffic is moved away. Even construction outside the roadway at the stations and boulevards requires extra space for safety and efficiency. Our project is complicated because we are building in the middle of live traffic lanes, so extra precautions are necessary.

The compromise is construction staging, meaning construction that’s done in individual steps or stages. Specific tasks requiring the same general work zone are carried out in one place at one time, before moving on to another area. To free up space, traffic is continually shifted, with temporary lanes moved around to accommodate active construction zones as our work progresses.

Creating a construction schedule and staging plan is a complex process, balancing community and project priorities. There are lots of considerations: maintaining traffic within the existing corridors rather than diverting traffic into adjacent neighbourhoods; minimizing disruption to drivers, local businesses and residents; working fast to finish on schedule so Viva rapidway service can begin.

Construction staging plans are developed block by block to include the timing and location of key construction activities, such as utility relocations; expansion or upgrading of critical infrastructure like watermains and sewers; road widening; building our rapidway stations; and constructing new features such as bike lanes and streetscaping elements. Preserving access to intersections, driveways and other important destinations is done to minimize impacts on residents and businesses. We also need to plan for specific construction requirements such as access for oversized construction equipment, or creating extra space around a short-term activity.

In general, we’ll do a set of tasks on one side of the road before the lanes are shifted (or “flipped”) for work to be done on the other side. And before traffic is shifted, we make sure the community and drivers are given plenty of advance notice so they know when travel lanes are going to be moved.

Ultimately, building a major construction project in the middle of a busy thoroughfare requires us all to share the road for a period of time. By staging our construction, we can ensure the safety and convenience of the community and drivers while keeping our crews safe so they can get the job done.

when transit is the star, good things happen

July 17th, 2015

more riders transit legacy

One of the most valuable legacies of the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games is the reliance on transit. In fact, the first vivaNext rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill is actively being used during the Pan Am Games.

And it turns out there’s more to the story.

In an article in this morning’s Globe and Mail, urban transportation reporter Oliver Moore points out that the experience of all these Pan Am transit riders is painting a picture of how great having effective efficient mass transit can be when transit systems are in place, and when transit is actively supported and promoted.

For example:
• The transit agencies across the GTHA are working together more
• People are changing their habits as drivers become riders
• Buses on HOV lanes maintain schedules or are often ahead of schedule

“For riders, it is a glimpse of how fast and reliable surface transportation can be – offering a real alternative – if it does not have to compete with other traffic,” notes Moore.

Now’s that’s a legacy we @vivaNext can get excited about!

Click to read the article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe”.

trees do make you healthier!

July 15th, 2015

Trees July16

As transit riders, most of you already know that taking transit can make you healthier. But now there’s a study reported by the Toronto Star that tells us that having trees on your street can not only make you healthier –but make you feel healthier.

As we continue to build new segments of rapid transit, we at vivaNext feel strongly that tree-lined streets help to make the new spaces more enjoyable to live and work in. They certainly create a welcoming, inviting environment that we can all feel proud of.

Click to read this fascinating article.

If you’d like to subscribe to email updates about the progress of the vivaNext project, click on this subscriber link, or go to our homepage at vivaNext.com and scroll down to “subscribe”.

moving the masses: Pan Am and Parapan Am Games rely on mass transit to make it all happen

July 10th, 2015

Get ready, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are coming to the Greater Toronto Area!

Get ready, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games have arrived! This is the world’s third-largest international multi-sport games. That means 250,000 visitors, and over 7,000 athletes converging on the GTA this July and August.

When you want to move the masses, you need mass transit.

Imagine 1.4 million spectators [that’s how many tickets there are for the Pan Am Games] potentially trying to make their way to over 300 events all over the GTA from July 10 to 26. Or 50,000 people all going downtown on a single night to attend the Opening Ceremonies at Rogers Centre on July 10.

Without transit, getting people to mega-events like this would be traffic chaos. The Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games is relying on mass transit infrastructure to make it all happen. Organizers have adopted what they call a “transit-first approach” – doing all that they can to get people to take transit during the Games.

  • Tickets to the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games include free transit with local services such as GO Transit, Toronto Transit Commission [TTC], YRT/Viva  and many more.  Just show your Games ticket and ride for free.
  • Extra TTC and GO train service will run during the Games and subway service will start at 6am on Sundays instead of the usual 9am.
  • Several games venues won’t have parking. [Accessible parking is allowed, but should be pre-booked.]
  • Apps and online tools can help people optimize their transit and driving routes.
    • Triplinx is Metrolinx’s interactive transit trip planning tool, which launched in May, and provides step-by-step, real-time directions for transit riders.
    • 2015 Games Trip Planner provides real-time driving and transit routes during the Games.
    • The ‘Call One’ Call Centre, run by York Region Transit, will allow Games spectators to book specialized transit, coordinating service between GO Transit and all nine specialized transit service providers in the Games area, including York Region Transit Mobility Plus.

Our first rapidway on Highway 7 East in Markham and Richmond Hill is ready for the Pan Am Games. While it wasn’t planned specifically for this event, the rapidway will make travelling to events at Markham Pan Am/Parapan Am Centre near Kennedy Road and Enterprise Boulevard much easier.

Major international events like this will often spur the creation of transit infrastructure. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games led to the creation of the Canada Line, a light rail train in Vancouver that connected the city to the airport.

Vancouver Olympics organizers encouraged spectators and commuters to turn to transit during the Games, just as Pan Am/Parapan Am Games planners are doing now.

Transit service in Vancouver experienced record ridership during the Olympics, up 31 percent with an average daily ridership near 1.6 million.

There was also an amazing, surprising after-effect. Once people got used to riding transit, they kept riding, even when the Olympics were over.

Ridership increased by nearly eight percent that year, excluding the Olympics numbers, which was partly due to the new Canada Line, and partly due to people keeping up their Olympic transit habit.

Now that’s a legacy for the future.

For mass events, transit just makes sense. When everyone has so many places they need to be all at once, it’s so much easier to be car-free, sit back and enjoy the ride.